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St.Oswald's Ultra

17-Sep-2016 Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, UK (England)


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Trail Race Race Terrain
161KM / 100Miles
2 Days - 250 Runners

Alternate Distances: 100KM/62M 50KM/31M

DIFFICULTY Race Difficulty Intermediate  

Entry From £85 GBP

Stunning ultra in Northumberland, North East England.

Main 100 mile race is a UTMB 2016 qualifying event with 4 points.

Amazing race start at dawn on tidal Holy Island with route covering amazing historic sights of the county with superb CP venues.

Other event options include 100km, 50km & relay options. A www.totalracinginternational.com event.


Event Organiser
John Davies



Elevation: Very little change < 500 metres. Benign running terrain, not technical.

Suitable for: First ultra runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running in the last six months.


Elevation: Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed at least one ultra distance race (or similar event) or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.


Elevation: Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.


Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat) and or technical terrain

Suitable for: Experienced runners who have completed at least regular ultra distances in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.


Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude) and or technical terrain.

Suitable for: Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Review St.Oswald's Ultra

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10:51 22-09-16

I'll start with the good bits.... Course was well marked and easy to navigate, CP staff (I say staff as generally they are paid employees) were friendly throughout, route was fantastic although a tad flat for my liking but I knew that prior to starting. Now for the bad bits..
I received an email less than 24hrs before the start of the race explaining the coach times had changed, ours from Craster was 25 minutes earlier and the bus for the 100 milers some 50 minutes earlier. I was lead to believe this was down to the coach company, however no explanation was given?! I know this caused particular problems for a number of people travelling from outside of the area, if it wasn't for me booking a hotel the night before this would've been an issue for me also. Then the bus didn't arrive until 15 minutes after the new advertised time!
Registration was done on the bus, numbers handed out in an A4 envelope? Nothing else inside just the number. They could've saved a fortune on a 157 A4 envelopes and bout some prizes (more on that later)
When we got onto the mainland there was nobody to direct us to where the drop bags were or where the start was, there were also a number of people panicking as they hadn't registered and there wasn't long to go until the start.
At the start I've gave my drop ago with all my nutrition in for the Warkworth CP looking forward to seeing in 72km time.
Quick catch up with friends at the start, race briefing and we were off.
I've ran the first 50(actually 53)km of the course twice now so had no issues with nav. The course was well marked especially compared to some previous races I've done. After about 5 miles there is the first or two crossings of the A1, a pretty busy road at the best of times, now I've learned the green cross code and crossed millions of roads in my life but as in previous years I expected there to a Marshall on hand at these crossings to ensure competitors safety, let's face it when you've been running and your hot etc you don't always make the most sound judgements. Alas there were none so we dodged the speeding cars and ran onwards. The first CP we had to sign our names on a list of numbers, thought this to be a little odd but hey ho no dramas.
Fast forward another 20+ miles I was feeling good, left the guy I had been running running with and headed across the dunes towards Craster (the end of the 53km race) as I say I'd ran this race twice so luckily knew where to go. There was no markings or anyone directing you to the finish and I hear a number of people ran straight past it?
Now as this was the finish of one of the races I half expected there to be a bit of food, maybe a few crisps (salty food is especially great when it had been so hot) I asked the marshals and they had nothing but a few sweets, some coke and water. Not to worry, I filled my tailwind up and off I went, only 10km to the next CP....
It was to my surprise that the next CP was only about 4 miles further up the coast, not as advertised and not thinking too much about it off I went, only 9.5km to Warkworth where I'll be reunited with my drop bag :)
9.5km came and passed, no sign of Warkworth except what I could make out of the castle in the distance, this isn't good I thought, I haven't taken a wrong turning anywhere? The day was pretty warm by now, my water and tailwind had just about ran out and still Warkworth was nowhere to be seen. Luckily I stumbled through a caravan park that had a drinking water tap, lifesaver!
I eventually got to Warkworth some 15km after the last CP (not the 9.5km as described of there website and pre race email). Joy, I'll get my drop bag, fill up with Tailwind and off I go, except I asked the guy at the CP where the drop bags were and he told me that they hadn't arrived!!!!!!! I couldn't believe what I was hearing, he kindly offered me an array of sweets and coke but no water!! I felt ready to explode with rage, he then said he'd go and ask the cafe if he could fill up my water bottle. Surely I was just suffering from heat exhaustion and imagining this? He tried to call the race director but there was no answer, he took my number and said he'd text me and make sure it was at the next CP, two supporters kind.y offered to drop it of. Nutrition is pretty personal to most people, I myself love Tailwind, it gets me through without the need for food. Unfortunately I had to grab a couple of sweets and be on my way (again no option of some salty food). I quickly realised I'd have to slow right down to conserve my energy to the next CP, it was only 11km but with no decent fuel I'd have to be careful. I phoned my wife to let her know what had happened, she told my there were a few other issues but she'd fill me in later, this didn't sound promising.
The heat was now pretty intense and there was no cooling breeze, I'd become so angry that I couldn't concentrate on what I was doing, I kept worrying that my drop bag wouldn't even be at the next CP and imagining all sorts of scenarios.
Arriving at Felton, the penultimate (or so I thought) CP I was reunited with my drop bag, no apology though. I guzzled as much fuel as I could, had a quick briefing from one of the marshals about some tricky navigation parts and also that there wasn't 17km to but in fact 21km left to go, never mind I thought, just focus on getting to the next CP, only 7km or 9km or god knows how far away?
The next section was eventful, charged by cows, a few falls and some more cows but credit where credit is due the course was well marked.
Now, the final CP was at a pub called the Anglers Arms, in the pre race email this was billed as 'seat if you're ahead of last orders' well that's a lie as there wasn't anyone from the race there, I went into the pub that they didn't even know the race was on, unlike previous years when the RD had contacted them! By now I'd gone into a full fit of rage, baring in mind the previous section was tricky to nav and fields of angry cows there was nobody to see if you'd arrived safely. Furiously I carried on, I did however ask the landlady to tell them that I'd been through if they ever did turn up.
The last section involved more cows chasing me, some very nice people offering to fill up my water and the finishing stretch.
Towards the finish my anger had subsided, I'd done what I achieved, 1st place and to break the course record.
I saw my wife as I finished and learned she was 1st lady in the 50(53)km race. What a great day for us.
Now, in the pre race email it said winners and placed runners would be awarded prizes upon finishing (Em came second last year and got a nice trophy and prizes) however this year there was none? All that hard work for nowt, nice one. I was presented with a medal and cheap t-shirt that after one wash the badge fell off.
I did however finally get a bag of crisps, yay :). No bottles of water available though, boo :(
The kind people at the cafe did offer me soup, coffee, a beer, water and some juice out of the kindness of their heart (thanks Tomlinsons you guys are great)
The issues I had with this race could've been dangerous and ended badly for someone less experienced, it is only out of sheer good luck that it didn't.
I've previously said I wouldn't air my dirty laundry in public but I've emailed my concerns in a constructive way to the race director Phil Gray and am yet to receive a response. The people who run this event are a business, not just people putting it on for the love. If this is how they conduct their business I really feel for the future of their employees.
I really hope they take reviews like this on board and put things right but unfortunately my experience of their event has been soured and I for one won't be back nor would I recommend it to anyone else. For the money I paid (£70 for 100km, £40 for 50km and 2x £13 for a 45 minute bus journey) this event had a very cheap feel to it, from the CP's through to the race t-shirts. I don't expect the earth I just expect what they promised and I'm sorry this just didn't happen. Poor, poor show Total Racing.

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06:28 22-09-16

Understand that there's been a change of organiser for 2016. Email info pre-event all good. The course itself is spectacular with most of it giving sight of the sea. Highlights at Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh. The course profile looks pretty flat but surprisingly tougher underfoot than I was expecting - but was also a very hot day. It's a great mix of trail through farmland, woodland, dunes, fields. Disappointing organisation from on the day though: registration not at a central point so people still wandering around 5 minutes before race start looking for numbers. No pins handed out with numbers. Bag drop all over the place with bags for different destinations going into the same bag. I know that 100k/100milers had mix ups with bags not appearing at the correct CPs. No signs for where the race start was. Signage along the 50k route was pretty good to be fair, only 2 wrong turns in that time. Check points really poor with only water and bananas, and one with flapjacks. Final CP on the 50k was a guy on his own who insisted we were at 42km when everyone's watches read around 48km. Didn't appear to be any timing on route - no chips or clock at finish. Support from walkers and runners and locals along the route was fantastic and friendly. Could and should be an awesome ultra but the organisation needs a lot of work.

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07:18 21-09-16

I ran St Oswalds 100 this year, 2016. The course is great but very deceptive. It starts off easily enough along the coast, no elevation to speak of, just a nice potter by the sea. But then, when it gets dark and you turn inland for the second half, it bites you hard. The terrain is very tricky underfoot; lots of wet grassy fields with divots and steep ups and downs, not to mention the cows eyeing you up. Navigation is tricky too. You get everything on this course - coastal paths, grassy fields, farm tracks, moorland and forest. Organisation this year was poor - little communication regarding checkpoints and drop bags and it was only a few days before the race that we found out there was no food on offer other than jelly babies for the first 47 miles. After that, good hot food was on offer. Nice volunteers. I dnf'd at 80 miles but for no reason other than my own inadequacies! I would recommend, but only to experienced 100 milers

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10:40 19-09-16

I ran the 50 km race this year. I had planned on running the 100 mile race but a long running (ha ha) achilles injury put paid to that. It was a beautiful day and incredibly hot for September. The sun was relentless. I was running with a friend I met at last year's race. I planned to support him after I completed my race.

We took a few wrong turns as it happened. I must be getting old as I could not remember a lot of the sections from last year. Despite looking quite flat on the profile, I can assure you that Holy Island to Craster is not flat. My mate had a lucky escape when tripping over a tree root. He escaped injury.

I was worried the whole time about my achilles. It was painful towards the last 10 miles or so. Very painful that evening as I was on support duties meeting my friend in my car at Warkworth, Felton, Welling Bridge and Rothbury. But some ibuprofen helped. Now it has calmed down and all is ok.

The section from Warkworth to Rothbury is 'only' 18 miles but is a real test of endurance. Navigation of this section is tough. The route is rough underfoot and slow going. Obviously I did not run this section this year but my mate did.

I was impressed at how friendly the support staff were. Runners were looked after. I love the cameraderie of these events. Sign me up for next year.

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01:05 26-10-15

This was my first 100 km race. I knew it was going to be tough for me as the furthest I had run before was 43 miles but you never know until you try. The scenery was spectacular and the race was well-organised. I met a great bunch of people.

I made it to Warkworth by about 5.45 pm but the last 30 miles or so was very hard on me. I lost my way a couple of times and added a few extra miles on to the route. It was muddy in the woods and some of the tracks were easy to miss in the dark. I was glad to make it to Rothbury, coming in in the early hours. I got off lightly with only one blister.

I'll definitely be doing it again next year.

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11:46 14-10-15

I sat on a bench outside Lindisfarne Priory in the midst of my last minute kit faff, looking at a procession of lycra clad athletes who all appeared confident, relaxed and fit heading to the start. I wondered what on earth I was doing there.
The priory was the start line for the 2015 St Oswald’s Ultra.

I was really excited to see this race existed. It ticked all sorts of boxes for me.
First box ticked was that the longest course was 100 miles and that was my aim for the year, my first 100miler.
Secondly its route was to take me along the coast line where I grew up, played and worked and finished more or less where I was born, so a trip down memory lane that really appealed and one that offered stunning countryside.
Third on the list (things are better in threes) the race offered UTMB points (4) just in case....
The reality of the St Oswald’s Ultra on the 26th-27th September was that it was going to offer a whole lot more.
The course was truly stunning, covering the best coastline in the country studded with dramatic castles and picturesque harbours. This was then followed by a meandering path up the River Coquet through lush farmland and some great pub based aid stations. The route would then cut up onto the Northumberland fells into the national park, over open moorland, through thick forest and open farmland before its final hurrah on an 8 mile stretch on the Roman wall to finish on a bridge over the North Tyne at Chollerford.
The support en route was awesome with a never ending supply of cheerful volunteers and marshals giving food, drink, motivation and help every 10k or so for most of the course. I reckoned that the Pea and Ham soup at the check at Tomlinson’s Bunkhouse in Rothbury was the best I’ve had, even if I did tweet about it as “Pea and Jam” by mistake. The route itself was well marked using reflective flags and cards for the night sections. The night navigation had its moments (particularly when trying to distinguish between reflective sheeps’ eyes and reflective way markers) but the signage and route maps meant I kept mostly on track.
After a photo call in the priory, all 3 races; 50K, 100K and 100miles set off together in the still dawn across the causeway separating Lindisfarne from the mainland, the atmosphere was both eerie and exciting. We cut inland and up some small hills, all the while debating amongst ourselves whether we were going too hard or not. I tried hard to keep my heart rate down in the zone I had agreed with Marcus my coach.
After a loop through some mixed and ancient woodland we turned back towards the coast seeing Lindisfarne, Budle Bay, the Farne Islands and Bamburgh Castle stretched out in the distance, the climb was worth it!!
The race dropped back towards the coast and those of us on the 100 mile course chatted happily and settled in to our respective rhythms. Like all my Ultra running experiences my fellow competitors were great company but the groups began to gradually stretch out.
Hitting the coast I found myself on my own without anyone in sight in front or behind. I began to recognise familiar territory from my youth, heading under Bamburgh castle. I enjoyed the sights and the comfy rhythm I was tapping out. Enjoy it while it lasts I thought!
The coastal paths took me through costal fishing villages with easy navigating, the race briefing advice of “just keep the sea on your left” stuck in my mind. Further on I dropped into Low Newton where I chatted for a bit with another 100 miler and probably bored him silly telling him of my old summer job teaching sailing on the beach there. On to the most dramatic of the coastal castles at Dunstanburgh before clipping across the headland to the 50K finish at the Jolly Fisherman on the harbour edge in Craster.
The marshals at the check were great but I was a bit concerned when they were surprised at seeing a 100 miler arrive. Was I overcooking it? Was my pacing wrong?
“Well I’m following my pacing plan, running to heart rate so it looks like I’m committed to this now”, I thought...”I’d better crack on”! There was still a long way to go and much further than I’d done before, oh well.
The coastal path wound on with great views and perfect running conditions, still and cool.
At a check north of Alnmouth I hit the front – not meaning to and scaring myself silly at the thought of more than 60 miles still left to go, potentially on my own. I was still feeling comfy and my heart rate was on target.
I worried about this for a bit glancing back to spot the runners that I was convinced were closing in on me. Coming into Warkworth, having left the coast I stopped worrying as my parents were there giving me a cheer and a welcome distraction. Here I picked up my first drop bag. Christmas had come! I now had a packet of fish and chip biscuits (must have for a child of the 70’s like me) and some cold boiled new potatoes in a bag with lots of salt....They were awesome!! Easy to eat and really refreshing.
I set off again past another castle and off up the Coquet, it was a gorgeous section with beautiful woodland, lush farmland, oh and some cows! I slowed a bit as the navigation needed more of my attention.
The sun came out and the temperature rose. I was grateful for the salt tablets and water dished out at the pub checkpoints up the river! It was a beautiful late afternoon as I hit the track leading into Rothbury. This was great I was going to be heading up onto the fells in the light!
Next another cheery stop off, a change of top and my second drop bag at Tomlinson’s in Rothbury, oh and the amazing soup ! I now had more potatoes to feast on too.
The climbs started in earnest out of Rothbury and over the moors into the National Park. In my own head I tried to rationalise that I was going as hard as I could and so shouldn’t worry about who was chasing me as there was nothing I could do about it! I did still worry but didn’t look round as much. I was still feeling pretty good.
Next up was the forest section, this started tricky in the dusk but the way markers lit up as soon as I gave up trying to save my head torch batteries and switched it on! Nav in the woods was now easy and before I knew it I was on to the next checkpoint with jovial marshals before heading out into the pitch black and more cows. Somewhat surprised cows this time! It turns out they were not used to Skinny blokes in lycra, wearing lights on their heads disturbing whatever it is they do at night in their fields.
Fields in the dark proved to make for challenging navigation. Phil the race director kept popping up to see whether the route was navigable in the dark. His route marking worked as I seemed to make the checks without massive problems. As my friends know I’m not the most gifted navigator, so if I could manage the route then the race team had done a great job in marking it clearly!!
The last indoor check was at Kirkwhelpington. The effort was beginning to tell on me and I allowed myself a sit down and was given a cuppa soup – Heaven. The guys manning the aid station were awesome and gave me a great lift. Another top on now as it was getting chilly and I was off out for the last 20 miles.
The last 10 miles dropped me down onto the Roman wall. I was absolutely nailed at this point but the end was in sight, the night was clear and still with a massive harvest moon. It felt really special to be running on the wall itself in the magic stillness of the small hours.
Heading off the wall and down the road to the North Tyne, a mist hung in the valley, one final turn and I was turning towards the bridge over the river and the finish line at the George at Chollerford.
Crossing the bridge I was met with a warm welcome and congratulations on finishing my first hundred!! I was so happy to have done it and to be able to sit down. I hadn’t been caught, I hadn’t got lost in the back of beyond and my race plan for pace, kit and nutrition had worked like a dream!
After 103 miles of eating mostly Cliff Blocks and boiled potatoes I relished a cup of tea in the warm.
In the end I didn’t get caught which added to my delight at finishing the 100 mile race. After 2014 where work stopped me from doing much other than pile on the pounds ,2015 had turned out superbly! The biggest difference has been the support I have had from Marcus Scotney my coach. I started working with him in December 2014 and he has helped structure my training with a strong scientific base and it has re-booted my running. The mini targets and variation and challenges in training sessions have made it real fun. He has also really helped me with my race strategy from my mental outlook through pacing and finishing with kit and nutrition. Oh yes and he’s a sound bloke too!
After a bit of a refresh (zombie like consumption of tea and soup) I joined the welcoming party to see the others coming in, it was awesome! The camaraderie, smiles and palpable relief at reaching the line was something to watch. I totally got it, my last 10 miles had been pretty hellish too.
What an event, the organisation was awesome. The marshals, volunteers and race organisers were so friendly and helpful that everything felt easy (bar the last 10 miles!!). The atmosphere amongst the runners was chilled and friendly; everyone wanted everyone else to succeed. In the end, however, the star of the event had to be Northumberland, how can you beat views like this???

So here I am 2 weeks later – what have I got to show for my 19hrs of effort?? Awesome memories, 4 black toenails and a big smile on my face!

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03:35 07-10-15

This is my 7th 100 miler and was only entered because I live on Tyneside and therefore was fairly local. Im fairly familiar with much of the route having walked and run regularly in Northumberland over the years. However, when you put all of the parts together it makes one hell of a route. It can roughly be divided into 4 parts; from holy island, across the causeway and then a slightly hilly loop away from the coast. Secondly you arrive at the coast and follow the coastal path past some stunning beaches. You then head inland roughly following the river inland to rothbury. From there its cross country, crossing moorland, forest and farmland all the way to cholloford. I think that it may well have become my favourite 100 mile route.
I thought that it was going to be about as easy as a 100 mile route can be but the lack of total elevation shouldn't fool you. Some of the ground makes it pretty tough. Navigation is very difficult in places and having a gpx file on my phone was a godsend.
Checkpoints were pretty good although I'm pretty slow and some of the earlier ones had run out of coke. Not a major issue though. The checkpoints obviously aren't as well stocked as in a centurion event or the Lakeland 100 bit they were better than I expected and catered well for veggies.
Weather was pretty good although it got really cold at night, with frost forming on some of the stiles. Wind and rain would make this exceptionally tough.
Overall, can't wait for next year when i m going to prepare properly and go for a decent time.

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08:57 06-10-15

Having trawled through the many Ultra UK races for 2015 the four of us from Clanfield Joggers chose St Oswald's. Having read the great reviews from last year, the amazing location and the symbolic route from Holy Island it won hands down. This was our first 50k Ultra and we had been working hard to enjoy it and we were not disappointed. After the start we soon realised that ultra running is not so much a race but an endurance challenge with like minded people who all support each other.
We hope to return next year and bring some more friends with us.

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03:56 05-10-15

Awesome race. My first 100 mile race and it was immense! Terrain was brutal but scenery spectacular. The best & worst thing I've ever done all rolled into one! Organisers and volunteers were exceptional. The best way without doubt to see Northumberland and its best features!! Won't be the only time I run this!! I'll be back for more pain!!

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03:49 05-10-15

Awesome race. My first 100 mile race and it was immense! Terrain was brutal but scenery spectacular. The best & worst thing I've ever done all rolled into one! Organisers and volunteers were exceptional. The best way without doubt to see Northumberland and its best features!! Won't be the only time I run this!! I'll be back for more pain!!

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